Trip Reports » The Trials and Tribulations of Flying with a Bike
There was a story in the news recently about a British man who has made a bicycle that can fly. Built in a tricycle style with a huge engine powered fan and parachute-like canopy, once the bike gets up enough speed, the rider and bike literally take off. It wasn’t entirely clear how one landed but there was no mention of fatalities so presumably everyone was all right.
The whole affair looked terrifying. A massive motor-powered fan and a flimsy parachute. No thanks. However, part of me thought that it looked a lot less hassle than trying to take your bike on a plane.
Over the years I’ve done a fair bit of touring with my bike. This has involved breaking down my bike far too many times to mention. For you see, airlines do let you take bikes on planes, usually for a fee (although one or two big carriers still let you do if for free). That’s fair enough. As are the regulations that you remove peddles, turn handlebars and bag it (or box it) up.
The problems really arise because there is a complete lack of consistency. Some carriers have a weight limit on their bikes. For EasyJet, it’s a measly 12 kilograms. Unless it’s a racer, chances are it’s well over that. Add a pannier rack, a stand and the other accessories essential for bike touring and you’ll be lucky if your bag or box is under 20 kilos.
One time when I flew BA, they said it was free to take bikes. Great news, I thought, feeling proud to be British. What they did not make clear was the fact that it counted as your checked baggage. So, I spent an interesting half hour on the floor in departures, cramming the contents of a rucksack and the rucksack itself into an already stuffed bike box. The nice lady I had spoken to about the cost of bike transport had apparently neglected to mention this when we spoke. I wedged myself into the seat on the plane wearing about nine layers of clothes and sweating profusely.
In fact, every time I have flown with a bike it has been stressful. Whether it’s careless baggage handlers chucking the bike around, so that when you are reunited it looks like it’s been through a mangle; or those really annoying trolley barriers that prevent you from going anywhere useful with the carts. It’s just never easy.
Yet, I keep doing it. I keep booking my bike on to flights. I do it because despite all the stress, the aching muscles after carrying your bike a mile to your hotel, it’s still worth it. Because being on a tour in a strange land is a feeling like no other.
Next time you’re at the airport and you see someone with a bike box and a frazzled look on their face, ask them if they need a hand carrying anything. Please, it might just be me.
This post is from James, a cycling nut who would cycle the world if he had the time and the money! He is currently writing for Merlin Cycles, a brand that is very supportive to him.